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Young Scots Writer o the Year 2023: Winning story

Read the winning story, 'Billy Barr ’n’ Jonny Jimison’s Day Oot!' by Elise Atkins

Wee Billy Barr ’n’ his pal Jonny Jimison, were hivin’ a daun'er through Glesga toon. Jonny hid in his haun a battered issue ae the day’s paper.

“Haw Billy, take a gander at this. Thon big Isa, fae roon the coarner fae us, fun’ a mingin’ auld bag that someb’dy hid flung ootside her close. An’ ye’ll never guess wit wiz in it.”

“Wit, Jonny? Wit wiz in it?” said Billy.

“Hunners ae money!” Jonny belted oot. “Naeb’dy knows who it belangs tae. She might git tae keep it.”

“Nae doot she’ll be flittin’ tae thon Bearsden,” laughed Billy.

Jonny’s eyes lit up wi excitement. “Haw, dae ye ‘hink the zoo hiz bears?”

“Whit ye goin’ oan aboot bears fur?”

“You’re the wan that mentioned bears.”

“Naw, Ah said Bearsden - the toon, no the big hairy animal.”

“Oh right,” Jonny said, feelin’ a bit as a numpty.

“We’re no that faur fae the zoo. How don’t we go an’ huv a look?” Billy suggested, tryin’ tae make his pal feel better.

“Aye Billy! That’ll be magic.” So aff they went tae the wee zoo oan Oswald Street.

As they walked tae the zoo they passed a sweetie shoap.

“Haw, Billy. Look at aw they sweeties!”

In the windae there wur aw kinds ae chocolates, toffees an’ fudges, lollipops the size ae yer hawn, big jawrs ae humbugs an’ soor plooms, pokes ae sherbet wi liquorish sticks, bars ae tablet sittin’ stacked up at the front, gob stoppers thit ye could play billiards wi, an’ oan a platform above the rest wiz Edinburgh rock ae every colour.

“Billy, ’mon, let’s go in an’ get some!” Jonny said slaverin’ slightly.

“Dae ye huv yer ration coupons wi ye?”

“Aye, Ah huv!” Jonny said excitedly.

“Ok then,” Billy said.

Jonny rushed aheid ae Billy intae the shoap. The inside ae the shoap wiz as colourful as the windae hid been; sweeties fae aw coarners ae the world perched oan shelves as high as a Clydesdale hoarse oan their hin’ legs. Thur wiz a roon table in the middle ae the shoap that hid chocolates piled high.

Billy walked up tae the coonter, lookin’ fur the soor plooms. Jonny wiz a’ready askin’ the wummin workin’ ahint the coonter fur a pokey hat.

“Cin Ah huv some humbugs as weel?” Jonny asked.

“Nae bother, son!” the wummin replied.

Billy watched a tram pass by as he waited tae be served. His thoughts ae where Auchenshuggle could possibly be wur interrupted when Jonny tapped him oan the shooder.

“Billy, Ah’ve no goat enough money fur aw this. Cin ye help me oot?”

Billy sighed as he stuck his haun intae his poakit.

“How much ye needin’?”

Jonny gave a nervous smile.

“Enough fur a pokey hat an’ a poke ae humbugs.”

“Whit? Huv ye no goat ony money ataw?” Billy’s voice cried oot wi disbelief. Jonny smiled again as Billy sighed again. Billy haunded er the money fur baith weans’ sweeties. An’ the two pals gallivanted oot the shoap an’ aff tae the zoo.

Just like that they hid arrived at their destination. It wiz in an auld buildin’ thit wiz wance a kirk. Billy an’ Jonny walked through the stane archway entrance. Billy looked ‘er at a sign that read ‘1 shilling per adult, tuppence per child, babes in arms go free.’ A man wiz sittin’ at a desk, waitin’ fur the next visitors. Billy pulled two tuppence pieces fae his trooser poakit.

“Here, Jonny.” He haunded his pal wan ae the coins. “That’s another tuppence ye owe me,” Billy teased.

They approached the man.

“Ah twa bairns, that’ll be fower pennies.” The man said cheerfully. They haunded ‘er the coins.

“Eh, Billy, whit’s a bairn?” whispered Jonny.

“Dae ye no read the Broons? They’ve goat a wee yin wi nae name. They jist cry her the bairn. A bairn’s a wean, like you an’ me.” Billy explained.

“Oh, right,” Jonny said.

“That man must be fae Glebe Street anaw,” Billy surmised.

“Ur ye twa gawin’ tae the big school efter the summer hoalidays?” the man asked as he haunded the two weans their tickets.

“Aye, we ur.” answered Billy.

“Ur ye excited?”

“Aye, we ur mister.” Jonny said.

“Ye’ll huv a rerr terr. Make sure ye mind yer peencils,” the man said. “Well, huv fun! Make sure ye see the lion!” He called, as he waved them intae the zoo.

Billy and Jonny entered the zoo. A large aviary wiz placed right at the door. As they passed, a big macaw landed oan the bars ae the aviary wi a bang. Billy jolted back fae the bars.

“Don’t worry Billy, he only wants tae say hullo,” said Jonny. The bird turned his heid tae Jonny an’ gave a “Hullo, Hullo!”

“See,” said Jonny. The deep blue bird kept oan playfully croakin’ at Jonny.

The room hid aboot hauf a dozen cages roon it. They wandered roon lookin’ at aw the sights the zoo hid tae oaffer.

“Didn’t the man say they hid a lion?” asked Jonny.

“Aye he did.” replied Billy. “It must be up the back somewhere.”

They wandered up tae the back ae the hall, where the largest cage ae them aw wiz.

“Is the lion in there Billy?” Jonny asked wae caution.

“Well he’s no in any ae the others.” Billy approached the bars. The back ae the enclosure wisnae visible fae the ootside. Then, as if oot ae naewhere, a huge lion strolled oot fae the dork. He hid a braw dork broon mane that wiz long enough tae drag oan the flair. As he goat closer tae the bars, Jonny noticed that wan ae his eyes wiz shut er.

“He’s only goat wan eye,” he said.

“How dae ye normally spell lion?”

“Billy, that’s no funny. It’s a pure shame fur him.”

“Aye, ye’re right. Sorry Mr. Lion.” The lion looked unbothered by the hale situation.

Jonny pulled oot the poke ae humbugs, his coupon trippin’ him.

“Aw naw! Ah cannae huv these.”

“How no?” puzzled Billy.

“I’ve goat a shoogly tooth! It’s ma last wan. Ah don’t want tae risk it.”

“Aw, that’s a sin. Looks like Ah’ll huv tae take them aff ye then. Ah did pay fur them efter aw,” Billy joked.

“Naw naw, it’s awright. Ah’ll jist sook them.” Jonny said as he hastily stashed the poke back intae his poakit.

“I hink we’ve seen everyhin’ noo. Let’s head back hame,” Billy suggested. Jonny gave a nod in agreement.

They passed the man at the entrance, waving cheerio tae him as they went. The tram stoap wiz jist ootside the zoo. They ran er tae it. As they approached, Jonny spotted somethin’ oan the pavement.

“Billy!” He said. “Look!”

Billy’s eyes followed Jonny’s pointing finger. A broon paper parcel wrapped wi string tied intae a bow oan the top, nae label tae be seen, wiz jist sittin’ oan the grun.

“Ye don’t ‘hink..?” Jonny whispered. Billy minded the story in the paper they’d been bletherin’ aboot earlier oan that day. His eyes fixed oan the parcel.

“Dae ye want tae split it hoff each?” Billy asked.

“Wit aboot the money ah owe ye?”

“Aye, yer right enough. How aboot seventy five/ twenty five?” said Billy, tryin’ tae be sleekit.

“Dae ye hink ma heid buttons up the back, Billy? Ah’m no that bad at maths!”

Billy picked up the broon paper parcel. It wiz heavier than he expected. Billy thought tae himsel there must be thoosans ae money in it, no jist the hunners that big Isa hid fun. But, before he could unwrap the treasure, Jonny cawed oot tae him.

“Haw, Billy. There’s oor tram!” Billy ran ‘er tae the stoap, humphin’ the parcel wi him. The green, orange an’ cream tram cor rumbled as it glided alang the road. It stoaped an’ the two weans goat oan. They ran up the stairs an’ fun two empty seats the gither.

They hid barely sat doon when Jonny excitedly demanded, “Billy, open it!”

“Calm doon Jonny! Ah’m tryin’ tae!” Billy said. He pulled aff the string an’ opened up the paper. It wiz then that it hit them - the most foul, awful stench ye could imagine! It wiz boufin, really really boufin. Billy recoiled fae the parcel.

“That is boggin’. Whit is in that ‘hing!” Jonny shouted as the colour left his coupon an’ he flung a haun up tae his neb. Billy pulled back the broon paper an’ took a swatch. There wiz nae mistakin’ it. Whit Billy hid oan his lap wiz a heavin’ pile ae dung!

“It’s keech, Jonny! A lion’s keech!” Billy cried oot. He quickly covered it ‘er again, but the smell didnae dissipate.

“Whit ur we gony dae, Billy?” Two people sat ahint them began tae coagh an’ waft the air aroon themsels.

“There’s the conductress comin’!” cried Billy.

“C’mon Billy, let’s git aff this ‘hing, afore she gets tae us!”

The two weans jumped doon the stairs, rang the bell an’ flung themsels aff at the next stoap.

“That wiz a close wan Billy.”

“Aye… Eh, Jonny, where’s the parcel?” Billy questioned.

“You hid it last.”

“Naw you hid it.”

“Billy, Ah never hid it at aw.”

Billy’s eyes sprung open as he realised. “Aw naw, Jonny! Ah’ve left it oan the tram!” Billy went aw peely wally. “That conductress knows ma Mammy. If she tells her Ah’ll get ma bum skelpt!”

Jonny burst oot laughin’.

“That’s awright, she disnae know mine.”

This wee story is loosely based oan real events, as telt tae me by Billy, ma Papa. It’s aw true except fur the bits that urnae. Names huv been changed tae protect the identities ae the innocent wee weans, who left a parcel ae dung oan a Glesga tram, in 1947 or thereaboots.